cover image A Hummock in the Malookas: Poems

A Hummock in the Malookas: Poems

Matthew Rohrer. W. W. Norton & Company, $17.95 (74pp) ISBN 978-0-393-03798-2

Rohrer, a hip young poet whose first collection here has been selected as a 1994 National Poetry Series winner by Mary Oliver, offers a clue to his work by quoting for an epigraph the surrealist painter, Rene Magritte. Rohrer's imagery is intensely visual, as in the opening lines of ``news of the dead pope'': ``Out of a window musical notes float in single file/ past the windbreak of sage-colored trees.'' In Rohrer's landscape, the inanimate is conscious: dust from a snapped rug hangs angrily in the air; a radio weeps. In another poem, a house looks in on its inhabitants, who are making love in the kitchen: ``The refrigerator shudders and tries to shrug them off''; afterwards, a dessert ``...passes out out from the pain of his first bite.'' The humans of Rohrer's world seem sad and ritual-driven; they too are subject to a reality beyond the expected: there are waiters who are ``ashamed to serve anyone,'' people who have ``tender teeth'' and others who find that their hands, having gained wills of their own, molest passing strangers. From this ordered turmoil of whimsy and highlighted limitation emerges our awareness of a talented new poet of leaping imagination who manages to claim a place among the video generation without sacrificing individual vision or the precise use of language. (Aug.)